We weren’t sure if it was going to happen — it sure didn’t look very likely back in May and June, with the disputes between the MLBPA and the league owners. Nonetheless, the MLB opened up the season in late July and we have made it to the end of September with only a few hiccups along the away. (‘Hiccup’ probably isn’t a strong enough word to describe the two-plus week layoff and subsequent doubleheaders in St. Louis, but we’ll go with it.) And now, we’re entering the final weekend of the regular season, and the Cardinals are fighting for a playoff berth.
The Cardinals and Brewers will open a five-game series on Thursday evening at Busch Stadium, including a doubleheader on Friday. At the start of play Thursday, the Cardinals are 27-26, and the Brewers are 27-28. The Reds, at 29-28, are tied with the Cardinals (.509 winning percentages) for second place in the National League Central division. The Cubs are 32-25 and are in first place, despite dropping three of four this week against the Pirates. As things stand currently, the two National League Wild Card teams are the Reds and Giants, with the Brewers and Phillies lingering on their heels with .491 winning percentages.
Cardinals are better than their record — Viva El Birdos
The Reds and Phillies are off on Thursday; the Reds will take on the Twins, and the Phillies will face the Rays. The Cubs play the White Sox this weekend, and the Giants have a four-game set coming up with the Padres.
Thursday, 9/24, 7:15 | Kwang Hyun Kim vs. Corbin Burnes | FSMW, KMOX, WJIR
(Brewers are the home team for the first game of Friday’s doubleheader.)
Game One — Friday, 9/25, 4:15 | TBD vs. Jack Flaherty | FSMW, MLB Network, KMOX, WJIR
Game Two | Daniel Ponce de Leon vs. TBD | FSMW, MLB Network, KMOX, WJIR
Saturday, 9/26, 6:07 | Adam Wainwright vs. Brandon Woodruff | Fox, KMOX, WJIR
Sunday, 9/27, 2:15 | Austin Gomber vs. Brett Anderson | FSMW, KMOX, WJIR
Kim blanked the Brewers for seven innings back on 9/14 but allowed four runs in 5 1⁄3 frames against the Pirates in his most recent start, on 9/19.
Burnes, who will start for the Brewers on Thursday is in the running for the Cy Young Award, right along with Trevor Bauer, Jacob deGrom, and Yu Darvish. Burnes has a 2.6 WAR with 83 strikeouts in 56 innings this season (eight starts and three relief appearances). Burnes allowed one run in 4 2⁄3 innings against the Cardinals on 9/14. Matt Carpenter has homered twice in his career against Burnes.
After a miserable start in Milwaukee on 9/15 (3 IP, 8 H, 9 ER), Flaherty looked more like himself on 9/20 in Pittsburgh. In that start, Flaherty limited the Pirates to one run through six innings with 11 punchouts. Flaherty has a 5.75 ERA with 13 home runs given up in 11 career starts against the Brewers, so he’ll be trying to flip that script on Friday. Ponce de Leon will start Friday’s nightcap; the 28-year-old posted six innings of two-run ball with nine strikeouts against this Brewers team on 9/14.
The Brewers have not confirmed their pitching plans for Friday’s doubleheader. Josh Lindblom is expected to start one of the games, but it’s unclear which game — and who will start the other. Lindblom worked five scoreless frames against the Cardinals on 9/14 with only three base hits allowed.
Saturday’s game features the top matchup of the series, with Wainwright and Woodruff. Wainwright will make his 10th start of the season on Saturday. At Miller Park last week, Wainwright fanned nine and gave up only two runs over seven innings — a complete game in the first of doubleheader. Both runs came in the first inning on a Keston Hiura two-run homer; after that, it was all zeroes from Waino.
Woodruff pitched against Wainwright in that game, and Woodruff also went all seven innings. Tyler O’Neill and Brad Miller went deep off Woodruff, who surrendered only three earned runs in the outing. Over his last three starts (against the Cubs, Cardinals, and Reds), Woodruff has allowed just five earned runs in 17 2⁄3 innings with 26 strikeouts.
Gomber looked great in his start against the Royals this week, and the lefty is in line to start for St. Louis on Sunday. Gomber held the Royals scoreless on four hits and needed only 76 pitches to get through six innings. Gomber will be opposed by fellow lefty Brett Anderson. Four of Anderson’s last six starts have been quality, including his six innings of two-run ball against the Cardinals on 9/15.